Shadows Part 1 PART 3
The old lady gazed into the flickering flames of the fire. Lilly and William glanced at each other then back at the old lady who seemed lost in her thoughts. Lilly frowned as her eyes focused once more on the wall filled with shadows. All her senses told her there was something wrong. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled and just for a moment she thought she could see something staring back at her. She nudged William in the side and gestured towards the wall. He looked, shrugged his shoulders and whispered in her ear.
“Don’t you see it?” she whispered back.
The old lady appeared to still be looking at the flames, but out of the corner of her eye she could see them and her smile deepened. Just before Lilly could answer she turned to face them.
“My story begins many years ago, long before you were born. It happened in this very wood. The time was wrought with fear and superstition and anyone who was different was a target for those possessed of that fear.”
As she spoke Lilly noticed that the flames in the hearth leapt just a little higher and although the fire blazed, the air around her grew colder. She shivered and pulled her coat tighter. She reached out and touched William’s hand but he still felt warm.
Why didn’t he see and feel what she did, she thought.
“Far in the wood,” the old lady continued, “lived a young woman. She kept a garden that was filled with flowers and herbs. People came to her for help with their ailments and she would make up a remedy from her garden. Lemon balm to calm, mint for digestion, St. John’s Wort for anxiety. It was the women of the village that sought her out. They knew her talents worked. But sometimes some women who had bad husbands sought her out for a different reason. They believed she could do magic, and indeed she could. But she refused their requests and sent them away.”
“What did they want her to do? William leaned forward, his eyes sparkled.
Lilly knew that look. He was becoming engrossed in her story. He would want details, gory details. Lilly remembered how he would watch the worst, the bloodiest of horror films. Deep inside him there was a darkness, a darkness that she believed hungered for such things and yet, outwardly he was a kind and gentle man. Did the old woman sense this hunger?
“Death,” replied the old woman. “They wanted her to cast a spell or give them a potion that would snuff out their husbands lives.”
Just for a second Lilly thought she saw a sadness in the old lady’s eyes, but it was gone in a blink. She tried to slip her arm through that of William’s, but he brushed her off. Something was happening to him. It was as though he was caught in a web that the old lady was spinning with her story. The temperature dropped a few more degrees. Lilly’s heart beat faster and she noticed her breath escaped her lips in a smoky mist. Something brushed her cheek and her hair fluttered for a second, as though a passing breeze had kissed her on its way through. She shivered again. Something inside her wanted to scream, but she suppressed the feeling out of fear, instead she stared at William and the old lady. Neither seemed to have noticed how cold it was. The old girl was still talking and William was leaning closer and closer to catch every word she spoke.
“Even though she didn’t do as requested, the husbands of those women started to mysteriously die. She suspected, no she knew,” the old girl clasped her hands together and clenched her jaw, causing the lines engraved into her flesh to distort, “that those women had poisoned their spouses. But the village council knew about those women paying the girl in the woods a visit and so they blamed her for these deaths. The men called her a witch and cried for her to be burned.”
“Did they burn her?” William’s eyes became brighter and the excitement in his voice was easy to hear. “Did she scream?”
“What’s a matter with you Will? Why would you want to know that?” Lilly grabbed his arm.
He swung around to face her. His eyes became dark slits, his thin lips pressed tight. His jaw twitched with tension. “Shut up!” He peeled her fingers from his arm and turned once more to face the old lady. “Carry on,” he breathed.
The old girl stared at Lilly, and Lilly could feel her laughing at her even though she didn’t utter a sound. Lilly stared back at her, she appeared to be changing. Was she a now a bit younger than before?
The old woman started to resume her story and as she did, Lilly heard scratching. A scraping sound like someone or something was trying to get free. As she listened, it became clear it was coming from the wall with the shadows….